Stacey Parkerson has caught more than 50 world records in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. She was the first woman to land a world-record blue marlin on fly, and has since tallied 12 billfish records. Fishing with fellow world-record holder Enrico Capozzi on the 52-foot Spirit of Pilar, Stacey is far from done. She’s currently targeting Atlantic marlin and sailfish world records. She took some time away from the cockpit to answer some questions about what drives her passion.
Q: Where are you from and how did you get into fishing?
A: I was born in Evergreen, Colorado, but I grew up in Coral Springs, Florida. I had a Snoopy rod that I fished with in the C-14 canal behind my house in Florida when I was growing up, but I didn’t truly get into the sport of fishing until I met Enrico Capozzi almost 12 years ago.
Q: I know you’re quite the billfish enthusiast these days. Do you remember the first billfish you caught?
A: I will never forget my first billfish catch — a Pacific sailfish that I caught on my first offshore fishing experience in Costa Rica. I had been watching Enrico fish for a world record and after he landed that record, he let me take a turn. I had never fished for billfish and the feeling was pure bliss! As they say, I’ve been hooked ever since.
Q: When did you start fishing for world records?
A: While living in Costa Rica and after catching large numbers of sailfish — I released more than 2,000 billfish — and winning the The Billfish Foundation’s award for Lady Angler of the year three times in a row, I was ready to challenge myself in a new way. That’s when Enrico started to teach me how to fish with the different line classes and we started to target inshore fish for world records.
Q: How long did it take you to land your first record?
A: My first world record was a bigeye trevelly landed on 6-pound conventional tackle. It was in September 2003, during the Costa Rica rainy season, and we went fishing in Golfito with Capt. Bobby McGuiness. It opened our eyes to all of the potential world records that were available inshore and I started my training on light tackle. I would fish one line class and then move on down to the next line class.
Q: How many records have you caught since?
A: Since that first catch I have caught 52 IGFA World Records, landing two more in the last two months that are now pending at the International Game Fish Association. I have 42 inshore world records including almaco jack, barracuda, bigeye trevally, bluefin trevally, Pacific jack crevalle, roosterfish, whaler shark, sierra mackerel and mullet snapper. I’ve set a total of 12 billfish world records, two of which are currently pending. They include Pacific sailfish on fly rod for the 2-, 4-, 6- and 8-pound tippet classes. Pacific blue marlin on 20- and 16-pount tippet. Atlantic blue marlin on 20-pound tippet, white marlin on 12-, 8- and 6-pound tippet and pending Atlantic sailfish on 6- and 8-pound tippet.
Q: Wow, that’s an impressive catch log. What makes catching records so enjoyable for you? Is it the chase or the sense of accomplishment?
A: Ever since I saw Enrico catch that first blue marlin I knew that I had to try it. I have always loved a challenge and being a woman in this once male-dominated sport makes me love achieving records even more. If I am trying to best an existing record, the challenge and the excitement is finding that bigger fish and catching it on the target line. In those cases where a record has never been set in angling history, like in most of my billfish fly-rod world records, knowing that you are the first to achieve such an accomplishment feels very special. One other part of record fishing that I love is sharing the success with the crew. Having that hug and a cold beer on the ride home is the cherry on top.
Q: How long have you been fishing with the crew on the Spirit of Pilar?
A: Our first Spirit of Pilar was a 40-foot Gamefisherman. What a perfect day boat for the calm seas of Costa Rica. We did a very cool trip to Isla Montuosa, Isla Ladrones and Coiba in Panama which turned out to be quite an adventure. After a few years we switched to a 41-foot custom G&S. That boat could back down and spin like no other! We traveled to Guatemala for a hot bite in 2008, but mostly fished the Pacific coast of Costa Rica for our records. I was lucky to also get the opportunity to fish for a few months in Venezuela.
The 52-foot Spencer we currently run is the third Spirit of Pilar.
We bought it for our Atlantic tour in 2009. We fished a year and half in the Dominican Republic for blue and white marlin. Now we are in beautiful La Amada Marina just north of Cancun, Mexico, fishing for sailfish. We fished most of our years with Capt. Scotty Jones and caught tons of records with him. Now we have Capt. Bruno Larica at the helm, with whom we caught our 100th world record for the boat.
Q: Do you think people get the wrong idea about world record billfish catches because the fish must be killed?
A: I think it would help the public to understand that the amount of billfish we have landed is an insignificant number compared to the damage done by the commercial seiners and longliners of the world. The lack of government regulations of commercial fishing laws and the lack of facilities to impose such regulations results in the sad massacre of billfish. I’ve witnessed it first hand on several locations. In one instance I saw 2,000 sailfish unloaded by two small longliners during a three-day trip using live baits. That’s more than I’ve released in nine years of recreational fishing.
Q: Is there a catch you’re trying for right now?
A: The 16-pound tippet Atlantic blue marlin.
Q: Any special place on your bucket list to fish?
A: There are so many places I would still like to go and fish. I’m fascinated by the idea of traveling to the other side of the world to fish in exotic places like Vanuatu and Fiji. I also want to try Australia, New Zealand, Cape Verde, the Seychelles, Ghana, Brazil, Hawaii… I could go on and on! But as long as Enrico and I get to share this beautiful life together, I’m happy no matter where we are.